Sheffield United: Ice’ cool Blade’s remarkable journey to Bramall Lane

George Baldock during a training session. Pic: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
George Baldock during a training session. Pic: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
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Aged just 18 and expatriated in Vestmannaeyjar, a small town just off the coast of Iceland, George Baldock was alone and over a thousand miles from home.

Others his age were enjoying the sun and sights in Malia or Ibiza, family and friends couldn’t contact him.

But he loved it.

“I was a teenager at MK Dons at the time,” Baldock, Sheffield United’s latest signing as they prepare for the Championship, told The Star.

“And I’d struggled with a few injuries that season, so the manager and my agent said ‘do you want to go and play in Iceland over the summer instead of having a holiday?’

“I didn’t really feel like I’d earned a holiday as I was injured for most of the season, so I grabbed the opportunity and I really enjoyed it.

“It set me up with men’s football and since then, I’ve played almost 200 games. So I don’t regret it at all, and I recommend it to any other young lad in the same boat, if they can’t quite get in the first team. Because it’s a brilliant learning curve.”

The experience allowed Baldock, now 24, to seize his opportunity at Stadium:MK and earn a move to Bramall Lane, where he will compete with Kieron Freeman for the right-back slot in Chris Wilder’s plans.

It all started in May 2012, when he joined Icelandic Úrvalsdeild side ÍBV on an initial month’s loan. His spell was soon extended until August and he faced Irish side St Patrick’s Athletic in Europa League qualifying round, before returning to England, he insists, as a man.

“It forced me to live on my own and fend for myself, which was quite a big thing at the time,” Baldock added.

“I wasn’t a car journey away from my family, so I couldn’t just jump in and go see them. In fact, when I was out there, no-one could get hold of me. I loved it!

“The league itself was competitive, physical, and it was just about getting experience at that early age - playing in front of fans and for points, which is massive.

“It was an experience that set me on my way to where I am now, so I can’t regret it and, as I say, I recommend it to anyone.”

Baldock played twice against United last season as they romped to 100 points and the League One title - winning 3-0 in Milton Keynes towards the end of a memorable campaign.

“The thing that impressed me most about United last year wasn’t just the individuals they have - and they have some great players - but the way that they played as a team, on and off the ball,” Baldock added.

“That’s far superior than just having a few good players and I can’t wait to get involved. Given the chance, I like to join in going forward. United’s midfield was on a different level to anything in League One last season and the central midfielders distributed the ball out wide to give the full-backs an opportunity to get forward.

“The full-backs on either side [Freeman and Daniel Lafferty] had great seasons, so it’s going to be tough, but I can’t wait.

“It’s the sign of a good squad to have competition all over the park, so I’m really looking forward to it.”